Marriage and Sex: Why? And Why “Why” Matters
“Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.”
-Richard P. Feynman
For many in our society, Dr. Feynman’s above quote pretty much summarizes the telos (the goal, or end-all) of sexual activity of any type—its about pleasure, desire, and self-satisfaction (maybe even the satisfaction that comes from pleasing another). But… that’s about it. Despite the natural results (conception and childbearing) that the exercise naturally produces, for many, “having kids” and sexual activity are two very distinct activities.
Although the same actions can produce both outcomes, both outcomes come from very different intentions. In fact, today we have a unique 21st century phenomenon where for most, the “fun” part is an assumed reason for, and activity of, marriage. Yet, it is an entirely separate question—a whole different step and direction—to ask a couple “so…do you want kids?” or “are you going to try to have kids?” The very assumption behind this question is that the status quo for couples is to not be trying, and that it takes intentional decision and effort to do so.
This makes us ask two questions: 1) when did childbearing become a separate decision and direction of marriage and family life, and 2) what does this change reflect concerning our society’s view of marriage?
The answer to 1) in brief is this: the Sexual Revolution (begun in the Western World in the 1960’s-1980’s), initiated by its major catalyst- the creation of 20st century forms of contraception. The second half of the 20th century provided tools and means never previously available to society that segregated and divided an act that otherwise man could only seem to control through prayer (or pagan fertility folklore).
The answer to 2) is what brings us to today. The implications are two-fold.
First, it has created a Western (and increasingly global) worldview concern sex that is in radical apposition to Scripture’s. And this isn’t just to say that society sees sex as totally unrelated to the “legal” context and boundaries of marriage. Although this is grave (and true of Western culture today), studies continue to show how the elimination of intimacy, of self-sacrifice, of care, and of service in sex has made a great gift of God an empty experience. In an article from the Washington Post, author Donna Freitas explores how the “hook-up” quick sex culture pervasive in college and young adult social spheres has left the act bankrupt of any sense of enrichment, satisfaction, and even meaningful experience. In a conducted survey, 36% of college students who reported as “hooking up” described the experience as “fine.” And, what do such students understand “romance” to be? Answer: “primarily as talking: talking for hours upon hours, in a beautiful setting. Any talk of sexual intimacy, even kissing, was virtually absent from their descriptions.” Although rich conversation is indeed very much a part of romance, it’s so interesting (and sad) that other activities (namely physical ones) that others might include here in generations past are now too burnt out and boring to make the list. Compare this to the concept of relational closeness in intercourse as seen in Scripture, where in Hebrew, “to know” one’s wife is synonymous with having intimate sexual relations. Intimacy and exclusivity are a part of what make sexual activity the good, constructive, and beautiful thing God made it to be.
Society’s appetite for liberal sexuality can arguably been seen in the outrageous up and coming popularity of the erotic romance genre of pop-literature. This would include novels such as “Fifty Shades of Grey”—which has for many female readers opened to door to curious fantasies that offer hope for an exotic experience that can hopefully replace the disappointment with sex created by being children of, or since, the Sexual Revolution.
And also, importantly, is the effect that this has on the very definition of marriage. When it comes to the gay marriage debate, our own supreme court Justices have already made the observation that in today’s culture, the purpose of marriage is more about the emotional needs of adults than the mission of raising children and a family. If marriage is primarily about pleasure, then from a natural law perspective, what prevents one from seeing homosexual marriage as an equally appropriate means of satisfying this self-gratifying definition of marriage? Such a narrow definition cuts out the physiological realities inherent in the creation of men and women, and it nullifies the oundational command of dominion given to Adam “to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28).
In years to come, perhaps secular culture will finally find itself licking the wounds that have resulted from the deformation and redefinition of marriage and sex. Yet, for the church, I would challenge you to think – “Even though I may have a ‘pure’ understanding of marriage and sex, is the foundation of my understanding (and expectations of) marriage biblical, or do I have the two spread far apart… a thinking that I have inherited from my surrounding culture?”
So, is Sex only for the kids. I wouldn’t go that far. But… is it a primary focus when it comes to your conception of it?
 Noteworthy American theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner of the 20th century, known for his work in quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium (for those who were curious)
 The author understands that physical and health complications really do make conception of any type a real challenge and effort for some couples out there- this article is written with full sympathy and respect for all parties who fall under this category, and I hope that this article is read with the assumption that such people are not the subject of discussion in this post